China freeze to continue
Beijing - More regions of China faced power shortages, food prices rose and the government warned of crop damage as a cold front kept its icy grip on the country on Thursday with more chilly weather forecast.
A vast swathe of the country - from the interior southwest to its northeastern seaboard - has seen unprecedented spikes in electricity and coal use as residents sought to keep warm, China National Radio reported.
State-run Xinhua news agency quoted power grid officials saying China did not face an "energy crunch", but concern appeared to be rising over the situation, which echoed a severe 2008 power shortage caused by cold weather.
A historic cold wave in January of that year virtually paralysed China, bringing record low temperatures, transport chaos, fuel shortages and power outages across large parts of the nation.
As demand strained power grids, several provinces and regions have begun rationing electricity or imposed other restrictions, state media reported, although few details of the measures were given.
The affected areas included Jiangsu, Shandong, Henan, Hubei, Jiangxi and Hunan provinces, as well as the municipalities of Chongqing and Shanghai, Xinhua said.
Agriculture ministry officials said on Wednesday food prices were rising as transportation crimped delivery and the cold weather damaged crops.
Prices for vegetables had increased as much as 10% in recent days in some areas, while the winter wheat industry - accustomed to years of rising temperatures - was threatened, the officials said, according to Xinhua.
"The extreme cold weather conditions this winter pose a new challenge for the winter wheat crop," Zhou Puguo, an official with the ministry's crop division, was quoted as saying.
He however insisted that China did not face a crop crisis.
China has endured an unusually early and cold winter, reaching its height over the past week with heavy snow across the north of the country and rare snowfalls further south.
A weekend snowstorm was Beijing's heaviest in decades, and Wednesday's low of minus 16.7 degrees Celsius was the lowest in the capital since 1971.
The China Meteorological Administration on Thursday forecast more snow for parts of northern and northwestern China over the next several days.
Meanwhile normally warmer southern parts of the country would see temperatures below freezing, accompanied by sleet, it said.